The Things That Linger

Xoán drifts through the gathered treasure hunters in the Jefferson house. Though he(?) has seen many examples of human habitation he still finds the concept of shelter strange and amusing. After all, these structures are short-lived at best. Hidden in plain view he mingles with the one or two hunters and gathers of this American place.
Xoán flinches and covers his ears. The problem is the recently passed man in the back bedroom, he is making quite a dissonance.

While Laura McKorkel drives, Sean is thinking:
It’s Saturday morning. When I was working at the truck-stop, didn’t I always wish I could sleep till noon on weekends? 7:30am on a Saturday morning and while this seems to be a decent compressed foam cup of coffee, I’m still not convinced I need to be out and about at the crack of dawn, hunting treasures.
Treasures, vintage stereo equipment and monogrammed fountain pens are promised but something about going to estate sales kinda creeps me out. It’s a lot like the scene in Scrooge where the under folk are gathered in the pawn shop selling the miser’s estate items and one of the says “Ewwww, it’s still warm.”
How many Saturdays have I spent going to the kid’s basketball games? And that buzzer. All the appeal of a chainsaw ripping through a screen door.
And soccer? All those soccer moms slathered in olive oil and sitting in those fold-up canvas chairs with a sun umbrella. Those women could cuss a ref. . . I liked it better when the kids ate cereal and watched cartoons on local stations, on an antenna. Never liked cable.
I’m retired for craps-sake. This is supposed to be summer vacation for the rest of my life, but no. . . We need to get out and about. Searching for treasures in the houses of the recently departed. Still there was this really nice looking Yamaha stereo amp listed on Craig’s list – provided some moron hasn’t risen at 5:30am and beaten me to the sale.
Sean and Laura McKorkel are cruising through the GPS back-ways of Greenvalley Carolina in the north-western part of the south-east. They are looking for treasures and quality-time spent together in their new Cooper Countryman (Sean insisted that it be the color of the British show about a box. He says the Cooper is big on the inside and he always chuckles when he says it for reasons that few can fathom).
Sean recently retired from a decent career as an industrial for a manufacturing firm that specializes in the customization of micro-processor control units to. . . well to any industrial process, really.
They will pilfer two sales before reaching the recently vacated home of Mr. Archibald Jefferson.

Sean is thinking:
This isn’t so bad. You know, I bet Laura is just doing this to be snoopy about other people’s houses and how they live. The woman should’a been an architect. A mind for math and a smile that could fix a rainy day. 40 years? Yup, 40 long hard years of marital bliss.
Laura says, “Sean, are you having any fun at all?”
“Yeah, I could get used to this, as long as I’m properly caffeinated. Cheers.”
“No more, you aren’t gonna sleep if you drink too much coffee.”
“I’m on vacation, I can stay up if I want to.”
“When you were young, that kind of crap was cute.”
Standard, painted-brick, ranch house, probably built in the 60’s. Nice yard work, this guy took pains to keep the place up.
In one of the back bed-rooms the shade of Mr. Jefferson is reaching for a tiny toy train Christmas ornament. The treasure rests on a fold-up card playing table with a crepe-paper tablecloth.
His ghostly eyes have that look of helpless despair found on the faces of the deceased that can’t move on. His stooped shoulders are covered by a shadow-coat of Alzheimer’s. His hand is always approaching the memory of the ornament and he always pulls back at the last moment.
Sean is wrestling the flimsy screen storm door that enters the house from the car-port. The Lady running the sale offers to help him. He offers to get his tool box out of the trunk and fix the storm door. Laura is looking at the lady and explaining that Sean does this all the time and that they will go into the house so as to stop blocking the door. The lady is pleasant, kind and wishes she had brought a lunch.
As they walk down the central hallways Sean is trying to interest Laura in a conversation about the architectural short-falls of the Nuclear-family, 1960’s ranch. Laura sidesteps into one of the bathrooms and Sean shivers as he considers the germs and fungi infesting the poorly maintained fixtures.
Sean is walking to the back bedroom, thinking:

OK, there is an old man looking at that table of Christmas decorations.
There’s this guy by the door, covering his ears with his hands. What’s he muttering? Sounds kinda Spanish, but it isn’t.
This is a situation, these guys are not right-in-the-head and I need to. . .
Xoán moves to face Sean and seems to want to talk.
Sean says, “Excuse me, can I help?”
“My name is Xoán, Xoán rhymes with Rohan, but starts with a Z sound. How do you see me?”
“You are standing right here. Look, I’m sorry. I just. . . “
“O que você está fazendo?”
Sean brakes eye-contact and tries to push past the strange man. Xoán does not yield, says, “Senhor, qual é o seu nome? – Forgive me, Sir, what is your name?”
“My name is Sean.”
“Please to understand sir, this noise it is making it difficult. . .”
“What noise?”
“I am certain you do not hear it Sean, but I assure Mr Jefferson, he is causing a great deal of turbulence. I wonder if you might assist me in assisting him?”
“How can I help?”
“You are a rare gentleman, Sean. Please notice that My Jefferson seems intent on that decoration.”
“You mean this?” Sean picks the ornament from the card table and the temperature in the room drops and the whole house goes silent. Sean stands there not knowing what to think.
Xoán looks as though someone has punched him in the head. “Sean, I think you have taken us outside the normal stream of Time. I also think you have made Mr. Jefferson very angry.”
The shade of Jefferson rushes at Sean and passes through him. The thing is silent but as it thrashes around the room, Sean can see that it is screaming. Again it rushes Sean.
More by reflex than thought, Sean holds up the ornament and throws if at Jefferson. Jefferson tries to catch it and makes contact with it.
Suddenly a multitude of shadows is shuffling in through the west wall of the room.
Xoán says, “Good work Sean.”
“Who are these people?”
“Jefferson’s wife and their extended family. Jefferson couldn’t bear to be parted from his wife and in that fear remained separated from her. By touching this one burning memory-moment a bridge to the dead is made and she comes to her husband to comfort him. Oh so very busy and the bustle.” Xoán is holding his hands to his ears, “I’m just gong to step out for a moment.” Xoán is slipping into one of the closets with that thin luan-paneled sliding doors. Sean says, “Where the Hell are you going? How am I going to speak to them without you to translate?”
“Too much noise. Can’t stand it,” And Xoán slides the door shut.
Debbie Jefferson approaches Sean and says something. Though he can’t actually hear her, he sees that she is saying ‘Thank you.’
She walks to her husband and stands directly in front of him. He is still looking at the ornament on the floor. She extends her hand and gently lifts his face so as to let their eyes meet. Jefferson winces but doesn’t look away.
Spring spreads across his face and Sean can see something like a shadow-coat fall from Jefferson’s shoulders. The old man’s face returns to a younger self as he looks so longingly into his dead wife’s eyes. The shadow-coat of Alzheimer’s seems to liquefy and seep through the floor.
Mr. and Mrs. Jefferson embrace with the desperation of hungry children. Their family gathers around the couple and Sean is weeping.
After an endless time, Jefferson takes leave of those who have come to bring him home. He walks over to Sean. He raises his hand to shake Sean’s but their hands pass through each other. Jefferson laughs a silent embarrassed laugh. Sean picks up the ornament and offers it to Jefferson. The older man touches it and smiles. He gestures that Sean should take it, then mouths a silent ‘Thank you.’
As they leave through the west wall, Xoán steps out of the closet. Places a hand on Sean’s shoulder, says, “Sean McKorkel I believe you are a good man, now maybe we can get some peace around here.”
Sean says, “Xoán, that accent? Where are you from?”
“South of here. Far south of here.”
“Interesting but not helpful. Xoán, are you a ghost?”
“My new friend, Jefferson, was a ghost. Humans tend to live a life, then move on to something else. The ones that have difficulty in the transition tend to linger here as shades.”
“Ghosts and shades? Humans? What the hell are you?”
“Honestly, I have no idea my man. But, I’m certainly not a ghost because I have never lived a human life.”
“Why not?’
“Far too noisy, and the madness – clearly more trouble than it’s worth.”

Days Go By

There was a time
So long ago
When I lifted a child’s hand
like a foreign thing
And looked on the World
Minus everything but Wonder

Days go by . . .
Agony and ecstasy
Accrue layer upon layer
Light and dark bands
sediment of sentiment
Days go by . . .

I lift a child’s hand
like a foreign thing
And see new skylines
in her eyes

poetry is always a lie ~ but this is a very good lie

under a moon the size of the sky
he said

never trust to poets
for poetic justice is neither just nor poetic
poets lie with liquid lips
their farewells are never fair
and their good-byes are seldom good

overlooking a sea the size of love
he raised his hand
and lifted the oceans from their bed
revealing all the secret treasures hidden in the seas

he said
i have cried a million tears
and all my tears have not made one inch of difference in the seas
he lowered the waters and set them to moving again

he pulled stars into his hands and twisted them into a diamond chip sparkled flower
an ever-opening flower
convoluting and growing from the center

he said
the flower can not sing
it can only be beautiful to us in this place
i would not have it so

and he set the stars free like lightning bugs
on a warm West Virginia night

she said
teach me

he said
if you could turn the sky backward
rewriting those moments when you were hurt
do you think you would be the victor?

she said
because there can be no victory
only pain and death

he said
if you could bind you wounds and grow tens arm
becoming a goddess
do you think you would be happy?

she said
because happiness is not a thing that can be wrestled
or bound
or even properly talked about

he said
if you could change the weather?
if you could grow gold in the palm of your hand?
if you could forget all your suffering
would you?

she said nothing

he returned the sky to exactly the way the sky is
he returned the earth and sea to exactly what the earth and sea are
as he twisted something in his hands
he said
this is a poem
this is a lie

she said
it looks like an arrow

he said
and it is only beautiful in flight
make a bow

she said
i can’t

he said nothing

she said
this isn’t fair
you ask me to change the weather
to grow gold in the palm of my hand
forget all my suffering

how can i do these things?

he said
you have always had the power
but you have chosen to hide it from yourself
until you were ready to transition

she said
teach me to transition

he said
i can’t
you must figure this out for yourself

she said
you are a bad teacher

he said

she said
you promised. . .

he said
i never promised anything

she said
why won’t you help me?

he said
i am helping you
if i were to be your armor
i would keep you from experiences you need
if i were to protect you from the rain
you’d become a desert
if i were to sing you sweet songs
you’d lose your place in the dance

he turned and the wind played with his clothing
the way a playful dog might
with a gesture he made a bow the shape of the night sky

he said
i can not give you love
nor children
nor courage
nor reasons for the way of things

she said
then what good are you?

he notched the poem that is an arrow
pulled it back on the bow let let it fly screaming into the belly of Nux

he let the bow slip form his hands
he laughed a snort then
held his hand out palm down
turned it over
in his hand is a piece of paper
this poem is written on it

he says
poetry is always a lie
but this is a very good lie

and quickly closed my hand again

The day passed
through the crack in the sky
and was gone

I opened my hand
but could not see it in the darkness
I felt what I knew was there
and quickly closed my hand again